Paramedics transport a patient from Maison Herron, a long term care home in the Montreal suburb of Dorval, Que., on Saturday, Apr. 11, 2020. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Quebec requests military reinforcements to fight COVID-19 in nursing homes

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday the federal government is carefully studying “an unprecedented request” by the provincial government of Quebec to deploy Canadian military medics to help health authorities fight the pandemic in hard-hit nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

A formal request for help was made Wednesday night to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Trudeau said.

“Right now, we’re looking at this and trying to see how we can help Quebec during these difficult times,” he said.

“We will need to discuss this with Quebec to see exactly how we can support them and respond to this request, which is not the usual type of request. Of course, this is not a usual situation either.”

‘Far more severe impact’

A body is removed from Maison Herron, a long term care home in the Montreal suburb of Dorval, Que., on Saturday, Apr. 11, 2020, as COVID-19 cases rise in Canada and around the world. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Trudeau said the federal government may also assist with sending members of the Red Cross and specialized volunteers who have registered with Health Canada.

“I think one of the things we’ve seen over the past number of weeks is a far more severe impact on a number of seniors’ residences and long-term care centres than we had certainly hoped for, or more than we feared,” Trudeau said. “The federal government is looking at ways to support the provinces, as they deal with this issue.”

Quebec is the hardest hit province, reporting more than half of Canada’s COVID-19 cases and fatalities with over 15,857 cases, including 630 deaths. All of Canada reported 29,229 COVID-19 cases and 1,240 deaths.

The majority of deaths in Quebec have been reported in nursing homes and long-term care facilities for the elderly, many of which were functioning with skeleton staff even before the pandemic.

All hands on deck

In a desperate attempt to overcome critical staff shortages at these long-term care homes, Quebec Premier François Legault called on Wednesday for the province’s most highly trained doctors to step in and help care for the elderly residents – a task that is usually reserved to orderlies.

Some 2,000 doctors responded to Legault’s call for assistance.

“Obviously, it’s going to be a big challenge to have everyone work together, people who are not used to working together,” Legault said. “It will not necessarily be easy, especially in conditions that are really exceptional. But, I am convinced that with good faith …we will be able to have these people work together.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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